Page last updated at 13:39 GMT, Friday, 3 December 2010

How is School Report relevant to the curriculum?

School Report is more than just an exciting 'extra' for your pupils; it can help develop important skills required for the national curriculum, and many schools run the project with an eye on meeting these criteria.

Here are some case studies of how schools in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales use School Report in relation to the national curricula in each country.

In addition to the four case studies below, this independent evaluation gives further examples of how other teachers have delivered the news-making project in their schools, and maps School Report to the national curriculua and the Every Child Matters agenda.

ENGLAND

School Reporters at St John Wall Catholic School
Pupils at St John Wall work on coming up with questions for an interview

The National Curriculum for England aims to "help all young people to become successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens".

Sharon McLoughlin, head of Geography and assistant head teacher at St John Wall Catholic School in Birmingham, has run School Report in her school every year since it first began in 2007.

"We are a humanities college and School Report fits in ideally with English," said Ms McLoughlin.

"But it works across several different subjects and areas for us like IT and PLTS (personal, learning and thinking skills). It definitely develops skills like teamwork, meeting deadlines and presenting, while it also fits in well with drama and media studies.

The National Curriculum places an emphasis on inclusion, and St John Wall Catholic School has always run the project with mixed ability groups.

"I have meetings with the head of the English department and we work out how it fits in," explained Ms McLoughlin.

"I ask the English teacher who they feel would be able to work on various aspects - it's not always the brightest kids who want to go in front of the camera. Some prefer to be behind the scenes putting the stories together and coming up with ideas.

How the language of education and curricula translates into School Report and journalism
"read accurately and with understanding" = presenting
"locate and use information" = research
"develop an ability to question accuracy, bias and plausibility" = investigative reporting
"amend and refine work to enhance its quality and accuracy" = edit
"exchange and share information... through electronic media" = broadcast
"knowledge of big events and events that shape our world" = current affairs
"independent enquirers" = investigators/reporters
"creative thinking" = finding an angle or news 'peg'
"self-managers" = editors and news planners
"promoting community cohesion" = news outreach
"responsible citizens" = BBC's responsibility to sustain civil society
"use skills for real purpose" = genuine news stories
"able to validate and interpret" = editorial judgement
"global citizenship" = international news
"healthy lifestyles" = health news
"community participation" = local news
"enterprise" = business news
"sustainable development" = science and environmental news

"A lot of the less able pupils are able to learn skills both behind the camera and in presenting, so it gives a chance for everybody to work together."

"We've more or less stuck with the same formula over the five years - we normally work with small groups of 10-15 pupils - we are a small school so it makes it a little bit easier than running it with a whole year group."

With an eye on national curriculum criteria about promoting a sense of community, St John Wall Catholic School have always covered at least one local story on the main News Day.

"We do try to link with the community as much as we can," said Ms McLoughlin.

"We've done interviews with people from the area and had people come into school like [renowned local chef] Glynn Purnell as well as police liaison officers. I think it's important to do local stories."

The project has helped encourage some pupils to pursue media studies and English at GCSE and A Level and Ms McLoughlin also feels that it has been useful in terms of career awareness.

"It opens their eyes to what they can achieve and what they need to do in terms of qualifications and so on," she said.

"And it maybe inspires them - pupils who have done it before still talk about it and appreciate the challenges it posed and how they overcame them."

NORTHERN IRELAND

The revised curriculum in Northern Ireland is designed to be "less prescriptive, offering more freedom for schools and helping pupils develop the skills they need for life and work in the 21st century".

School Report offers the opportunity for pupils to gain an insight into the real world of journalism and Lynn Murray, an English teacher at St Cecilia's College in County Londonderry, says the project has been turned into a module in its own right for the whole of Year 10 for students aged 13 and 14.

"We run School Report in English but it also helps develop the girls' IT skills," said Ms Murray.

"As well as co-ordinating with our IT department, the girls have access to the [local education centre] Verbal Arts Centre, where they record and make copies of their news reports.

We try to make the experience as much like a newsroom as possible
Lynn Murray, St Cecilia's College

"One of the main reasons why we did School Report is for every single group to get something out of it, from weakest to the most gifted.

"At St Cecelia's, we stream the girls in certain subjects but School Report has had an impact on all of them, especially in terms of their communication skills, with some weaker students shining out as great performers."

School Report "ticks all the boxes" added Ms Murray, with particular emphasis on reading, writing, speaking, listening, IT and data handling, while decision making and negotiating are also covered.

With the revised national curriculum stressing the importance of key themes like personal development, learning for life and work, active learning and flexibility, the authenticity delivered by the deadline and the BBC brand make School Report ideal for St Cecelia's College.

"We try to make the experience as much like a newsroom as possible," said Ms Murray, who has had children interviewing former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and appearing on local station Radio Foyle.

"They bring their lunch in, rather than going to the canteen, so they can work towards the deadline in the cut and thrust of the newsroom."

SCOTLAND

The Curriculum for Excellence has four key strands, designed to develop children into successful learners; confident individuals; responsible citizens; and effective contributors.

It also stresses the importance of interdisciplinary learning and providing opportunities for personal development, and Dugal McCrow, an art teacher at Grantown Grammar School in Highlands, has seized the chance to make School Report a cross-curricular project.

Grantown Grammar uses the whole of two year groups for the project, and the school has found School Report to be an ideal vehicle for promoting various skills and learning goals.

"We've found it an organic process in terms of how School Report fits in with the curriculum - we try not to make it a tick list," said Mr McCrow.

"It's helped with all kinds of different areas, like presentation skills, numeracy, confidence, technology as well as global citizenship and personal development."

Someone might not be a good writer but they could be an excellent cameraman
Dugal McCrow, Grantown Grammar School

The school is eager to "encourage more proper editorial thought and real journalism" rather than the celebrity gossip stories some pupils were drawn towards.

An in-depth look into the issue of climate change saw pupils interviewing local people on camera, conducting surveys, writing scripts and editing content, but Mr McCrow also noticed the soft skills of co-operation and listening were also developed.

Pupils worked together in teams of mixed ability, with various roles tried out. The school used the technique of changing roles every half an hour - "someone might not be a good writer but they could be an excellent cameraman".

The authenticity of the project ensured the students took it seriously, and Mr McCrow said he was pleased at the way in which it encouraged pupils to develop a "healthy scepticism" about texts and sources and the importance of "not taking everything at face value... of verifying facts and questioning assumptions".

WALES

The revised School Curriculum for Wales places a strong emphasis on preparing students for the world of work.

Pupils interview Welsh swimming star Ellie Simmonds
Pupils from Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr interviewed swimming star Ellie Simmonds

"With the 14-19 Learning Pathways Curriculum, we have to be aware that we are preparing pupils not just for university but for the world of work," said Jan Ohlsson Jones, the head of media studies at Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr in Swansea.

"What School Report does is it opens the eyes of pupils to different career opportunities that are available to them because they've learnt about them in the course of the project. It's not just the obvious journalism route, although that does interest some students, but in doing interviews and so on, they become more aware of the wider world.

"You can forget how young they are and it's not until they are actually forced to investigate something and use those research skills, that they tend to find out a bit more for themselves.

"We have careers services that are based in the schools and I know of at least a couple of pupils who been to speak to them because they'd been part of School Report and hadn't really thought about anything to do with the media before and were now interested in it."

The curriculum is also increasingly focused on developing pupils' skills, with a reduced role for specific subject content, while global citizenship is also a central part of the thinking behind the revisions.

It's become more mixed ability as we've gone along
Jan Ohlsson Jones, Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr

"It does tick a lot of the boxes to do with global citizenship," added Ms Ohlsson Jones.

"Schools now are more and more reliant on self-evaluation of the department and of the whole school.

"In all of the three key questions that the school and the department have to provide evidence of their workings in, the major theme is global citizenship so doing something like School Report is great because it's looking at how people around the world live and how we report that.

"It helps a lot with literacy as well, and it can be useful for English teachers because there are elements of School Report that link in to the English curriculum, like speaking and listening."

The way Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr have run School Report has evolved since they started the project in 2007.

"For the first couple of years we did it, we offered it as a chance for Gifted and Talented pupils to get involved," said Ms Ohlsson Jones, who also teaches drama.

"We still tend to run it that way to some degree because I found that the nature of the day means that you do need to have at least a handful of people who can act very quickly.

"But in the last two years, because people have heard about it and want to take part, we look for about 10 to take part and then the rest come to the lunchtime club and then it's based on how loyal they are in coming week-in, week-out. So it's become more mixed ability as we've gone along.

"I often ask the Year 9s who have done it before to come in and mentor the younger pupils because they have done it before."



SEE ALSO
Fears over lessons in citizenship
19 Oct 10 |  Education & Family
Curriculum 'fact files' given out
26 Aug 10 |  Scotland
Study backs BBC News School Report
14 Oct 09 |  School Report

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